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Jupiter Ascending

2015-02-06 13:31

What it's about:

Jupiter Jones, a young woman, who divides her life between her obnoxious immigrant family and her job cleaning toilets, suddenly finds herself the centre of an intergalactic family feud.

What we thought:

My dear, dear Wachowski siblings, what ever are we going do with you?

We all know that the Matrix was never as original or (maybe, just maybe) as good as its reputation suggests, but it was still a major event in the history of science fiction cinema that took bits of everything from Grant Morrison's comic books to Philip K Dick's novels to oodles and oodles of Asian cinema (both animated or otherwise) and turned out a product that at least felt like something genuinely new and exciting. Sure, it had rubbish dialogue, plenty of plot holes and a too-cool-for school aesthetic but damnit was it exciting!

Since then, what have you offered us? Ghastly sequels to your breakout hit, a psychedelic tribute to an old cartoon and a failed adaptation of a highly respected novel, that's what. And yet, through all the cod philosophy and narrative pretzels, I still respected your ambitions and, at the very least, your attempts to actually say something with your films. Well, not so much Speed Racer, both because I never saw it and because it's Speed Racer but your other films, certainly. Yes, even your really, really terrible Matrix suck-wells (see what I did there?).  

I'm afraid though, that my patience might just have reached a breaking point. I know that the themes of rebirth and reincarnation of Cloud Atlas were a bit much to swallow at times, but you really didn't have to make the unspeakably stupid Jupiter Ascending as your answer to it.

Now, I know, we all love those old pulps and the “regular Joe becomes intergalactic hero” trope is a trope for a reason but perhaps it would be best to leave the Flash Gordon pastiches to the professionals - or, at the very least those with a working sense of humour? Sure, 80% of your past work has been, to borrow a phrase, bobbins but at least you had the guts to actually engage with genre cinema, to try and use mindless spectacle to actually tell us something more than just “gee aren't these explosions pretty” But what, oh what, are you trying to say with Jupiter Ascending?

Now, don't get me wrong, not all is lost – or at least not quite. You still know how to provide serious visual spectacle and, unlike some other “big name” directors, you at least know how to frame exciting action scenes that don't make you want to throw up or fall asleep. Also, kudos on getting Mila Kunis for the lead role. She isn't exactly on good form here (but hey, who is?) but at least she's both ludicrously pretty enough and charming and charismatic enough to give this balderdash some much needed life.      

But what of everyone and everything else? Are you too proud to bring on another writer to at least polish your dreadful dialogue, to make sense of your convoluted plotting, to give your characters at least something resembling a couple of dimensions – it did wonders for your really rather good V For Vendetta adaptation, after all? And is there a particular reason why you took only the worst stuff from a couple of decades worth of quality genre TV (Babylon 5, Dr Who, even Game of Thrones) or did you simply assume that the Flash Gordon movie simply represents the very best in sci-fi art and costume design? Most importantly, what did poor Eddy Redmaine ever do to you that you had to ensure that he followed his career-high performance in the Theory of Everything with a role so hopelessly hokey that it would make Ed Wood blush?

I know, I know: it's pulp! It's campy! It's a tribute to all those wonderfully silly but imaginative old comics and scifi serials! Yeah... no, it's not. Or at least, not successfully so. See, it's cute and all that you want to pay homage to scifi's trashier side but in order for such a thing to truly work, you need to actually touch on the things that made that stuff so much fun in the first place. You need the sense of humour, as well as the knowledge and the right kind of skills to pull such a thing off – and sorry Andy and Lana, you just don't have what it takes.

Sure, in most of your other films you've vanished up your own behinds but, please, rather give us that then this embarrassing take on trash-cinema that's not so much trashy, as it is crappy. And believe me, there's a huge difference between the two.

Sincerely no longer yours,

Ilan Preskovsky
(Professional pretentious geek and random movie reviewer)

mark 2015/02/06 14:39
You call this a review, Ilan you are a total wanker and Channel24, please fire this idiot. I have not even watched this movie yet but even as a layman I can truthfully say this is a reviews ass!!!
Ilan Preskovsky 2015/02/06 15:58
Thanks for your informed opinion, Mark!
Wessel 2015/02/07 14:32
Judged by US reviews, Mark seems to hit the nail on the head. I agree that the Matrix sequels were awful, as were all their subsequent films; V For Vendetta included.
Jo 2015/02/08 01:22
I cannot help but feel that this is a personal vendetta against the Wachowskis (see what I did there, Ilan?). Ultimately a film does not have to "mean" or "say" anything. A film is devised to entertain you. So what if these movies don't create Nitzche-esque nuances of cinema philosophy; they entertain! Certainly, Cloud Atlas fell short when compared to the book. But I have yet to see a movie which doesn't. The Wachowskis took a brilliant, complicated book and turned it into a dazzling, complicated movie. The nature of cinema is spectacle, so visual pizaz is key. I tip my hat to you in acknowledging the siblings' taste for all things vfx. To an extent I agree that their dialogue might come across as weak, but only insofar as it is simplified enough for the average action-head filmgoer to understand the plot. Ultimately, these are two siblings who have a penchant for film-making. Their blockbuster budgets can certainly attest to that. If this scathing review were aimed at Michael Bay, I might be more sympathetic to your diatribe, but alas... Ultimately, the Wachowskis are no worse film makers than you yourself are a critic. Nonetheless, I support your right to express your opinion. After all, wouldn't the world be a far more boring place if we all mindlessly agreed? All the best, Jo
Tshepo 2015/02/08 21:06
Wow Ilan, your review is by far the laziest I have read (and while it may mean little to you, I have read many). You have not engaged any higher-level thinking in your pseudo-analysis... To continue with my rant and comments would take away from what Jo has adequately said... I fully agree! QCA!!!
Ilan Preskovsky 2015/02/08 22:15
Jo: Thanks for your honest and well thought out rebuttal to my review. You're right, not all movies have to "say" anything and there is something to be said for pure entertainment but my problem with Jupiter Ascending is that it simply doesn't work as a pure piece of entertainment - at least as far as I'm concerned. I love pulpy science fiction, which is clearly what the Wachowskis were going for here. I just thought they failed miserably at capturing the spirit of the pulps and the kind of scifi that taps more into that vein than into the more allegorical and philosophical sides of the genre. Or, in short, JA is more the Phantom Menace than The Empire Strikes Back, if you catch my drift. And the whole point of this diatribe is that the Wachowskis are NOT Michael Bay. While Bay is largely beneath contempt, the Wachowskis have enough talent and certainly enough good intentions that I expect something more from them than what we've gotten from them since the success of The Matrix. I try to judge movies according to what they're trying to be, which is why I can admire Cloud Atlas' intentions, even if I was underwhelmed by its execution (I actually haven't read the book but I thought the film didn't work). With Jupiter Ascending, I am especially disappointed because it aimed instead for simple, fun entertainment but, from where I'm sitting, failed miserably at even achieving those relatively humble goals.
Anthony Haahjem 2015/02/09 13:56
Ilan, ignore these guys. Ultimately a review is an opinion of one person. There are no wrong or rights here. You just clearly didn't enjoy the damn movie and you've reviewed it honestly. Why some people can't see things this way amuses me.
John 2015/02/09 14:31
This review is utterly appalling and must I concur with the majority of people who have commented. A mere good, average, bad and brief reason why would have sufficed. Take some pride in your work, this is unfortunately a shocking attempt at criticising someone for attempting something different.
Ilan Preskovsky 2015/02/09 23:17
Wait, reviews are just one man's (or woman's) opinion?! When the hell did this happen?! Seriously though, thanks Anthony for stating something that should really be blindingly obvious to anyone who has ever checked out one of those critical accumulation sites.
Carol 2015/02/11 11:26
Well, you took so many words to say how bad it was. I went to see it yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Its a straight action adventure - don't look for hidden meaning - its a scifi adventure with lots of action, it has sean bean in a supporting role, channing tatum as the eye candy, and its in 3d. GO SEE IT...guaranteed to de-stress you.
Carol 2015/02/11 11:26
Well, you took so many words to say how bad it was. I went to see it yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Its a straight action adventure - don't look for hidden meaning - its a scifi adventure with lots of action, it has sean bean in a supporting role, channing tatum as the eye candy, and its in 3d. GO SEE IT...guaranteed to de-stress you.
TeeA 2015/02/12 14:23
Channing Tatum acts in it... That's enough info for me!
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